Nashville marks 100th anniversary of nation's deadliest train wreck

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Historian Betsy Thorpe, author of "The Day the Whistles Cried," introduces Nashville mayor David Briley at ceremonies marking the 100th anniversary of the Dutchman’s Curve wreck.
Ralcon Wagner
The July 9, 1918, wreck on Nashville's west side killed more than 100 people.
Collection of Ralcon Wagner

NASHVILLE, Tenn. — Nashville mayor David Briley and approximately 80 people gathered on Monday near the site of the nation’s worst train wreck to honor those killed in the collision.

It was on July 9, 1918, when two passenger trains belonging to the Nashville, Chattanooga & St. Louis Railway collided head on, at speed, approximately 4 miles west of Nashville near White Bridge Road. At least 101 people were killed with an undetermined number of injuries. The location of the wreck was known by railroaders as Dutchman’s Curve, and was notorious because of the blind curve on the single-track line between Nashville and Memphis.  The body count was extremely high because of wooden coaches that telescoped in the collisions with the steel cars. Both trains were reported to be traveling at approximately 50 mph, or a closing speed of 100 mph.

Over the years, the deadly wreck has been immortalized in songs, magazines and the book “The Day the Whistles Cried,” which chronicled the events leading up to the crash. In the event on an ancient bridge on Nashville’s west side, Briley made some brief remarks, which was followed by the reading of the names of the passengers that died in the crash and a moment of silence.

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